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Wednesday, March 25, 2015


George Wenschhof
The zoning approval of the Monrovia Town Center development in Frederick County has seen many twists and turns over the last decade as politicos favoring and opposing growth have taken office.  During this time, two changes in the board of county commissioners (BoCC) and a change to charter government has taken place, adding to the complexity of the approval of this development.
A recent decision by Circuit court judge William R. Nicklas in regard to a letter submitted by (FACT) Frederick Area Committee for Transportation recommending approval of zoning and the involvement by former BoCC member Paul Smith with this letter has led to what may well be another change.
In 2006, Democrat Jan Gardner and her “Dream Team” won election, giving the “no-growth” faction a majority in the BoCC.  She and her team went about down zoning properties across Frederick County during a comprehensive plan update.
Among the properties down zoned was the Monrovia Town Center.  This action led to a lawsuit by the developers of the site.
Gardner and the “Dream Team” actions led to the ire of many landowners and the ultimate rise of Republican politico Blaine Young.
Young won big in 2010 and carried several Republicans into office with him. I quickly labeled them Blaine and Company for their pro business and pro growth positions.
It was not long before Young would go about the process of restoring the zoning of the properties down zoned by the Gardner board.
One of the properties to be rezoned was the Monrovia Town Center which allowed for the development process to move forward.
The lawsuit filed by the developer during the Gardner board was set aside by the developer as these proceedings were taking place.
In 2014 Jan Gardner won election to the newly elected county executive position by defeating Blaine Young and the county council would end up being comprised of 4 Republicans and 3 Democrats.
Republicans Billy Shreve and Kirby Delauter who were part of Blaine and Company won election to county council.
Shreve was denied the presidency when apparently Gardner, in a wise political move, got the 3 Democrats who were elected to support Republican Bud Otis for president of the county council and in return received Otis’s support for Democrat M.C. Keegin-Ayer to be vice president.
Since then Otis has voted with the Democrats rubber stamping Gardner appointments to board and commissions and approving “at will” positions hired by her.
The interesting aspect of the decision by Judge Nicklas on the FACT letter is he left it up to the newly elected council to decide what to do.
When I spoke with senior assistant county attorney Michael Chomel, he informed me he was the attorney working with the council and he recently discussed with the council some potential options.
He added the ten day period to ask for further clarification from Judge Nicklas had expired and the county or the developer has until April 9 to appeal the decision.
Chomel said “one of the alternatives for the council is to reopen the rezoning proceedings of the Monrovia Town Center”.
In a conversation with Steven McKay of (RALE) Residents Against Landsdale Expansion, he told me “I want a full review by the council”.
He added “I want reasonable governance and I am concerned for the health, safety and welfare of the community”.
He finished by saying “before (the ruling by Judge Nicklas) it was a done deal… But now, we have hope”.
If, the council reopens the rezoning proceedings, it could well result in the rezoning of the Monrovia Town Center to be denied.
Only council members Shreve and Delauter, who voted for approval as a member of the previous BoCC are sure bets to vote for the rezoning.
It is likely, the three Democrats on the council will vote to deny the rezoning of the property.
Republican council member Tony Chmelik, who represents that area never weighed in on the issue when he was running for election and Bud Otis may well feel he continues to owe Gardner for her support of his being named president of the council.
The Democrats will only need Otis or Chmelik to vote with them to overturn the rezoning approval from the previous BoCC.
This illustrates the long standing battle between the “no-growth” and pro-growth” factions that have dominated politics in Frederick County.
It also appears a law suit is certain regardless of what side prevails.
Stay tuned.